Monday, June 20, 2011
Thoki circled the police station on Slepnir until one fact struck him.
“Why are all the lights out?” he wondered aloud.
Slepnir, of course, didn’t answer but Thoki felt his coarse hair stand up. He whined as if to ask, “can’t you feel it?”
Thoki did feel it. Great gusts of cold air were rising in circles from the building. The icy drafts were punching the warm dry air and causing whirlwinds that buffeted the flying horse. Slepnir was forced to draw back from the darkened edifice. Overhead, there was a rumble of thunder.
“Something’s not right,” said Thoki shivering in his thin cotton shirt. It was then that he noticed the blanket of silence over everything. It was after midnight, true enough, but there wasn’t a single dog bark or a lone car’s headlights. Not even a whirring insect or a chittering bat. It was as if all life had halted.
“Can you bring us in closer?” Thoki asked his brother.
The horse tossed his head and grunted in the negative. Thoki noticed how the horse’s powerful muscles were writhing under his gleaming coat. Flecks of foam were starting to dot his hide with the effort of keeping aloft in the wild wind. Another flash of lighting struck home a few miles away and the air tasted of burning ozone.
“Set me down then,” said Thoki. “I’ll have to go in myself to get him.”
Slepnir touched down and let Thoki slide off his back. As soon as Thoki was on terra firma however, the horse began to pace and champ anxiously. His eyes rolled back in horror at the deserted plaza where the dark building stood. Thoki too felt revulsion at the heavy pall and it gave him goosebumps and made his legs sweat. There didn’t seem any fear of getting caught by humans, the station doors were wide open and strewn with debris. Thoki squinted as he saw a flurry of white in the dim night.
“Snowflakes?” he mumbled.
Slepnir snorted and reared a little.
“Calm down,” coaxed Thoki. “Stay here and wait for me. I’ll try to be as fast as I can.”
Slepnir whinnied and tugged Thoki’s sleeve with his teeth.
“If you’re that frightened, leave,” said Thoki, somewhat harshly.
Slepnir bowed his head and looked contrite, but he still fidgeted nervously.
“Alright then. Just lay low. I won’t be long,” said Thoki patting his brother one last time before screwing his courage and jogging to the door. He reached into his torn tunic and pulled out Mr. Babbington. There was some blood and horse-spit on the plush pig, but it was otherwise intact. Lor would have wanted that.
Thoki shook his head angrily. He was already thinking about Lor like he was dead. That was bullshit. Lor wasn’t dead he was just incarcerated… in a grim creepy African police station which was snowing right now.
“Oh fuck,” sighed Thoki in distress as he took a deep breath and stepped in.
The cold air slammed into his face like a freight train, fragments of ice stinging his cheek. Icy wind roared past the front desk and whistled through the halls and the cells. Thoki blinked at the dim white shapes casting their own queer light in the darkness. It was like being inside an iceberg — everything was in muted greens and blues. Thoki made his way to the desk, hoping to find a flashlight, or failing that, something he could set on fire. He tried flicking on the desk lamp, but as he suspected the whole building’s power had gone dead. He rummaged in the drawers and pulled out a two-foot long electric torch. Switching it on, he tried to discern where the cells might be.
He hadn’t gone more than a few yards when Thoki felt something hard beneath his foot. He aimed his torch downwards and squinting in the darkness he just barely made out the shape of a policeman. The man was huddled in a pose of terror and supplication, his eyes staring ahead at some horror. Thoki looked in the direction the man was facing, trying to see what had frightened him, but there was only dim shadows and white drifts in that direction. It was then that Thoki realized that the man was dead. He had been frozen solid by something that caught him so unaware that he hadn’t had time to shut his eyes.
Thoki shivered from more than the cold this time and fought the vomit rising in his throat. As he walked through the police station, he saw more corpses frozen in various activities. Some hadn’t even had time to recoil and were simply paused in mid-stride or mid-sentence.
“What could have done this?” he mused aloud. His voice was snatched up by the wind and tossed away.
When he found his way to the cells, finally, he saw the source of it all.
Lor was standing upright in his cell, a spikey crystalline giant, twice the size of the red-headed lump he usually was. He wasn’t saying anything or doing anything. He was simply standing there, black currant eyes blinking in the darkness… as large crystalline tears slid down his faceted face and smashed on the frozen concrete.
Thoki gasped and the cruel air burned his lungs and stung his throat.
“Lor?” he called out against the howling wind.
Lor shifted a little, his joints making the sound of ice-flows grating together. His onyx eyes took in Thoki, struggling to keep purchase on the slick floor as the wind beat at him.
“Thoki?” he asked. His voice sounded like the wind howling around them — hollow and mournful.
“You got scared again, didn’t you?” said Thoki, trying to keep the terror out of his voice.
Lor nodded. “I didn’t mean to,” he said. “I thought I was all alone again. I didn’t want to be alone again.”
Thoki managed a small smile through his shivering blue lips. This was just like their first meeting. Thoki had climbed up Yggdrassil to Jotunheim to find the whole ice-world empty and deserted… except for one frost giant weeping frozen tears and mourning the fact that he was alone.
“You’re not alone, Lor. I came back.”
“Is it really you?” asked Lor, plaintively.
“It’s really me! I came to get you,” cried Thoki. “Because… because you’re my friend!” He didn’t know why he said it — he felt like a damn fool saying it like that — like some God-dammed preschool kiddie movie. But it was true. He had to say it. More importantly, he had to stop Lor in his inadvertent rampage if he was going to leave the station with his toes intact.
“So what do you say, Lor. Can you keep it together, so we can get out of here?”
“I didn’t mean to kill all the men,” said Lor looking about to blubber again.
“I know you didn’t,” said Thoki nodding. “It was an accident. Come on.”
“One of them was very nice to me,” said Lor as he slowly raised one foot and set it down in the beginning stages of a glacial walk.
“These things happen, I guess,” said Thoki. Already the wind was starting to die down. “No point in dwelling on it.”
“That’s not true,” said Lor suddenly.
Thoki glanced up to see the giant looking more fleshy and less frosty, but there was a spikiness to his appearance and a fierceness in his eyes that made Thoki shrink. He suddenly remembered just how much the Aesir feared the frost giants of Jotunheim and in a flash knew why that was.
“No life is so worthless that it’s not worth dwelling on Thoki,” Lor said with unusual loquacity. “Every life we encounter teaches us more about ourselves.”
Lor reached down and picked up the frozen body of Daud from the floor. One last frozen tear slid down his face and landed with a “plink” in Daud’s arms.
“What did he teach you?” asked Thoki, pointing to the late Daud.
Thoki looked around at the rime coated cell bars and the snow covered floor. “Forbearance. Right.”
“I think I learned it more in retrospect,” sighed Lor.
Thoki shook his head in confusion. This new philosophical Lor was making him uneasy.
“Let’s go,” pleaded Thoki.
“Alright,” agreed Lor as he lumbered after Thoki without another word.
“Good grief,” muttered Thoki looking around him again in the dim light at the frozen bodies.
Lor only sighed.
“You always do this when you get depressed,” said Thoki shaking his head. “You can’t let yourself get so worked up.”
“Sorry,” muttered Lor, looking more like his old self again Thoki noted in relief. He still carried the stiff body in his arms, though.
“Hey, cheer up! Look who I brought to see you!” said Thoki, pulling Mr. Babbington out from under his shirt again.
Lor brightened up at the sight of the fluffy pink pig. “Mr. Babbington?”
“Yep. Guess who wants a big ol’ hairy hug?” said Thoki proffering the pig to the giant. Lor gently laid Daud’s body on the ground and reached out for Mr. Babbington. He reverently took the toy from Thoki’s fingers and held it aloft. His currant eyes were round and joyous as he stroked the soft pink plush with one of his huge sausagey fingers.
His face grew sober again, however, and his brow furrowing he seemed to debate something internally. Finally he lovingly kneeled down and placed the pig in the cold lifeless arms of Officer Daud Latchkara. He patted the piggy on the head like a dog he was discharging to guard something precious.
Without another word Lor lumbered out of the police station with Thoki on his heels looking bewildered.